UK Covid live news: PM should drop 'extravagant' spending promises due to pandemic, says former Tory chancellor

Latest updates: Philip Hammond says the government needs to tell the public ‘some difficult home truths’ about economy

11.20am GMT

In an interview on the Today programme this morning Rupert Soames, the Serco chief executive, claimed “very little” of the profits announced for 2020 (see 9.47am) were a result of the pandemic.

Serco is one of the main private contracting firms working on NHS Test and Trace (which, despite its official name, is not run by the NHS). But Soames told Today:

Less than 1% of our profits last year have come from the net impact of Covid because, whilst we have got a lot of business to do with test and trace, we’ve also had other parts of our business that have come to pretty much a grinding halt. So, overall, net net, it’s only about 1% of our profits last year came from Covid.

But we also had material losses in our transport business. Remember that we run a lot of leisure centres for councils that have been shut almost all through the year … The net impact of Covid, end to end, is about £2m, or about 1% of our profits.

[Test and Trace] is now a remarkable success and I acknowledge it has taken quite some time to get there.

But as of last week there are as many people being tested every week as we’ve vaccinated, about 2.5 million people a week.

11.00am GMT

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is promoting a story by Mure Dickie and John-Burn Murdoch in the Financial Times today (paywall) saying that her Covid policies over the winter have been more successful than England’s. It says:

Data from the pandemic’s winter wave suggest that Sturgeon’s greater willingness to maintain restrictions has helped Scotland keep deaths and infections lower than in England.

While deaths per million people in Scotland attributed to coronavirus exceeded those in England for more than a month in October and November last year, they went on to peak at a lower level. Excess deaths, seen as the best measure of the pandemic’s overall impact, have since December also been lower in Scotland.

Worth a read – “Scotland reaps dividend of Covid response that diverged from England” via @FT

Continue reading… Source: The Guardian: UK Covid live news: PM should drop 'extravagant' spending promises due to pandemic, says former Tory chancellor ———